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Monday, April 09, 2007

Common Purslane, Uncommon Benefits

Common purslane, or Portulaca oleracea L. (Family Portulacaceae), grows around the world. The aboveground parts are used. In addition to being used as a medicine, it is eaten as a vegetable or salad in many countries, especially in France and the Mediterranean. It is rich in nutrients (although amounts are highly variable depending on the report), including vitamins (A, B1, B2, C, niacinamide, nicotinic acid, alpha-tocopherol, beta-carotene, etc.), fatty acids (especially omega-3 acids, the highest among leafy vegetables), glutathione, flavonoids, coumarins, dopa, dopamine, and high concentrations of l-noradrenaline (0.25% of fresh herb).

Purslane has several known properties. It is heat disspiating and a detoxicant; it cools blood and stops bleeding. Several traditional uses are known, including headache, stomachache, painful urination, dysentery, enteritis, mastitis, lack of milk flow in nursing mothers, postpartum bleeding, bloody stool, bleeding hemorrhoids, and metrorrhagia. External uses include burns, earache, insect stings, inflammations, skin sores, ulcers, pruritus, eczema, and abscesses. Other, more modern uses include colitis, acute appendicitis, diabetes, dermatitis, and shingles.

By far the most common medicinal use of purslane in China is for the treatment of dysentery and bleeding. Although modern laboratory studies have shown it to have numerous biological effects, such as muscle relaxant (both smooth and skeletal muscles), hypertensive, antibacterial and antifungal, wound healing, antiinflammatory, uterine stimulant and diuretic, they don't explain why purslane is used for its various properties.

Nevertheless, since purslane is rich in conventional antioxidants (vitamins A, C and E, beta-carotene, gutathione, etc.) and omega-3 fatty acids, and because it has so many traditionally known benefits, it should be utilized more often.

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